The 27th Day is not the worst movie ever made. The acting, the production value, the editing are all sufficiently utilitarian as to not be too distracting. It’s a Columbia picture so they probably had a reasonable budget and access to some good resources, but even with a solid set of mediocre ingredients once you set the plot in motion the film rattles off the rails into a spiraling pit of moronic, convoluted drivel. The 27th Day is the sort of film that requires a two-handed face palm followed by a full-body slump for good measure.
Here is the premise. Five people from different places in the world are abducted by an alien flying saucer. The alien onboard comes from a dying planet and he wants to relocate his “race” to earth. The aliens have a strict code of nonviolence so instead of forcefully invading the Earth they give each of the 5 abducted earthlings a super-weapon and then return them to Earth in the hope that the human race will wipe itself out. You heard that right, this is the best plan a fantastically advanced race of space traveling aliens can up with. Using their super brains and superior morals they have decided that giving humanity super weapons and hoping we all kill each other absolves them from any moral responsibility.
There are a few conditions attached to this ludicrous arrangement. The weapons are little clear capsules that can only be opened by the people to who they have been given to. Once opened anyone can use the weapon. The weapon will kill only humans and will leave everything else intact.
So far the setup is stupid but a relatively typical cold war, science fiction, anti-war, humans-can’t-be-trusted sort of thing. It looked to me like it might have some interesting psychological twist since the fate of the world was in the hands of five individuals. There was the hardboiled American reporter, the obedient Russian soldier, the oppressed Chinese peasant, the nice English lady, and the German scientist. When they all return to Earth each of them independently decides to hide the weapon and keep mum. If the population of earth can resist the temptation of World War 3 for 27 days the benevolent aliens will leave us all alone and go back to their doomed planet to die. I can just hear my Jewish grandmother asking “this is a plan?”
Everything might have worked out but the fucking aliens interrupt the world’s broadcasting systems and announce to everyone that there are five people on the planet who possess immeasurable power and proceed to name each of them! That was not explained as part of the deal back on the saucer. Thanks a lot. The bulk of the movie is watching each of the five people trying to evade discovery and/or destruction.
Of course, the Soviets immediately want to take over the planet. I’m not sure why. I never understand why people want immense power. It just sounds like a lot of trouble to me. What upside is there to being in charge of everything on Earth or the galaxy or the universe? Imagine the paperwork. I guess you could be an irresponsible despot lounging in your harem all day, but you don’t need to rule the world to do that, just ask Jeffrey Epstein or Matt Gaetz, or your local catholic priest.
When they get back to earth the Chinese peasant gets killed almost immediately (A sort of twist on the red shirts die first principle). As soon as the nice English lady arrives on Earth she throws her weapon in the ocean. Two down three to go. The poor Russian soldier is mercilessly tortured by his own government in hopes that he will reveal the secrets of how to use the weapon. Then, while the evil Soviets manhandle their comrade, the American government politely asks the American reporter to explain what happened and reveal the secret of the capsules, but despite the nice government agent man saying please the reporter’s lips are sealed.
Blah, blah, blah, stuff happens, and then finally the German scientist realizes that the killer capsules have a secret code. He figures everything out and recodes them to serve some secret purpose that he has discovered. It doesn’t make much sense but I guess the aliens were testing us to see if we could reprogram the weapons to execute a different program. It’s not clear.
The scientist locks himself in a room and triggers them all. Then an unbelievably stupid thing happens. I would say it’s like something a child would think up but it’s stupider than that. The bombs go off and kill all of “the enemies of freedom” in the world resulting in absolute peace and harmony all across the globe.
Perhaps it’s too stupid to actually consider but how exactly would this work? Who is an enemy of freedom? Are we talking about individual freedom or legal, societal freedom? Do all the lawyers and Judges get thrown to the alligators? That might be nice, of course, it would result in an explosion in the alligator population. Are alligators enemies of freedom? If I want to take a dip in the Everglades the alligators are gonna hamper my freedom. Who do we feed the alligators to?
The problem is that taken literally the words peace and freedom are incompatible. Either I am free to do what I want including killing someone or I am not. If you want to put parameters on that freedom and make it conditional you might qualify as an enemy of freedom.
Maybe the filmmakers don’t mean absolute freedom, maybe freedom is code for American-style democracy, so all we have to do is kill all the enemies of democracy, or by extension kill all the enemies of America. That sounds about right. I think the Trump supporters would go for that.
Killing billions of people to establish peace sounds simple enough but you might have to kill more people than you think. I suppose anyone who followed the tenets of a religion would have to go, that’s several billion right there but psychopaths, militia nuts, and gang bangers could stay. They don’t threaten freedom they embrace it. I mean, they threaten others people’s freedom, but they are free to do that because they are free, I think.
In the movie, the worldwide holocaust happens off screen but everyone seems to be happy about it, Then a grateful UN decides to invite the aliens to come live on Earth. Talk about Stockholm syndrome! What the hell is this movie saying? I suppose the idea is to simplify the worlds problems by separating everyone into two mutually exclusive groups. Either you are in the good group or, um, you die. Is that what New Hampshire means when they say “Live free or die?” I never much liked that motto. Picture someone walking up to you at Mcdonald’s and saying “Live free or die!” What exactly am I supposed to do? Can still finish my fries? Aren’t you ordering me to be free? How does that work?
The man who wrote this horrendous mess of a script was not credited but thanks to the miracle of the interwebs the perpetrator of this crime can be named, it was John Mantley. He mostly wrote for television. The director, William Asher, was also more a tv director than a movie guy, although he did direct a clutch of awful teenage surf romps like, Bikini Beach, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.
I suppose The 27th Day could be seen as an allegory in support of McCarthy and his HUAC tribunals, or Stalin’s purges. The ideology doesn’t really matter. How you get to the point of executing half the world’s population isn’t the point, but the whole thing might make a fun reality show. You could set up death matches in a big arena. Watching the Christian evangelicals battle to the death against the Taliban in a swimming pool full of jello has its appeal, It could be like The Hunger Games. Oh! what about the flat-earthers vs the anti-vaxxers. You could dress them all in medieval armor and have them fight it out in a mud pit. What about Taylor Swift fans vs Britany Spears fans? or just the two ladies themselves in a vat of … Cheetos!… blindfolded!… with battle-axes! How about Exxon vs Monsanto in bikinis? Or what if we forced Britany to join the Taliban and… we’re gonna need a longer essay.
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